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The benefit of wildlife tourism - SOS Children’s Village weekend at Pilanesberg

02/03/2007 17:57:32 safaris/2009/sunway_dinner With Sunway Safaris 
The purpose of our sponsored weekend away with the SOS Children's Village kids was to expose the children to wildlife experiences, to educate them about Africa's natural environment, its wildlife and the interaction of society and the wild regions of our country, and to expose children to the growing tourism business in Africa. Through this exposure to tourism, we hope that some of the participants might see a career for themselves in tourism or conservation.

Not only do we help out these less fortunate young adults of the SOS Children's Village, but one of the important parts of a Sunway Safari is Responsible Tourism, and we operate these trips with the hope of educating the future generations about the value of conservation and eco tourism. An additional benefit is that our tour leaders are exposed to the reality of disadvantaged children and give them an avenue to assist.

The 'children' from SOS village
joined in a full participation safari.

Participation on safari
The children are all encouraged to get involved in the normal routine of a running safari as ‘clients', from preparation of meals to the enjoyment of game-viewing:
· Everyone helps pack and unpack the trucks when necessary
· Everyone learns and helps to put up a tent as part of a pair, and to pack it away at the end
· Everyone has a turn to help with the meal preparation and cleaning up afterwards according to a roster set up at the beginning of the weekend
· The group goes on game drives every morning and afternoon during the weekend

SOS Childrens Village
SOS Children's Villages build families for orphaned and abandoned children.  Eight to ten children are cared for in small family-type homes, the SOS families, and are raised like brothers and sisters. The head of the family is the SOS Mother, who provides the children with the affection and security they need for their sound development. This is supported by the Village-based Child and Youth Development team. They take action for orphaned and abandoned children by building and strengthening families for them to live in and grow with love, security and respect. There are currently more than 900 children living permanently in the SOS Children's Villages in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg, Mthatha, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Nelspruit and Rustenburg.

We arrange for children from Ennerdale SOS Village to participate in the weekend safari. The SOS Children's Village Ennerdale comprises sixteen family houses, an administration and service area and houses for the village director and the SOS aunts (who support the SOS mothers and take care of the children when the mothers are on leave). Up to 160 children find home in the sixteen family houses.

Sunway Safaris' objectives of the weekend were as follows:
· To expose the children to wildlife experiences, which we believe is essential to each and every child in Africa
· To educate children about Africa's natural environment, its wildlife and the interaction of society and the wild regions of our country
· To expose children to the growing tourism business in Africa; possible career opportunities in guiding, tour operating, national park employment, resort management and conservation.
· To expose our tour leaders to the reality of disadvantaged children

On Friday morning 4 guides - Francois, Mich, Charel & Tamlun - left the office with 2 Sunway trucks to pick up 20 SOS Children's Village Kids and 4 Care-givers. The "Kids" ranged in ages from 15 to 21, so technically speaking some of them were adults, but still under SOS Children's Village care, so I will be referring to them as "Kids" for the purposes of this report.

We arrived at the Village to find the eager-faced passengers waiting for us, and after we checked that everyone was ready we had a short briefing, loaded up the luggage and the people, and departed for Pilanesberg National Park.

The weekend was jam-packed with activities and some free time for the Kids to swim.

We had arranged 4 speakers to come and meet the kids throughout the weekend:
Aubrey - Banqueting Co-ordinator of Bakgatla Resort
Johannes - Receptionist at Manyane Resort
Tshipiwe - Game Ranger for North West Parks and Tourism Board and freelance Field Guide
Monica - Game Ranger for North West Parks and Tourism Board

Some of the children from SOS

Each of the speakers introduced themselves and explained what their jobs involved, and told the Kids how they had achieved their qualifications to get them into their current positions, and where they would like to be in the future. They had all studied and have moved up in their jobs from when they started, so they could give personal accounts of the opportunities for different types of work at their companies.

They all explained the importance of Tourism and Eco-Tourism with regard to their own jobs, as well as to South Africa. Johannes was especially excited about the 2010 Fifa World Cup to be held in South Africa, and was even wearing a Bafana Bafana shirt.

The Kids had the opportunity to ask questions at the end of each talk, and the most questions were about the animals. Everyone was very appreciative of the talks and effort from the speakers, and the personal accounts gave us more insight into working in the different industries.

My weekend getaway with Sunway Safaris.

Thursday night when I looked out the window when darkness covered the night, I knew my special star would soon come to life and that I'll soon see a brand new day. A better start for all bringing joy and happiness and symbolising peace.

I never thought it would be that great and something I'd never forget. You came along when I was about to give up on life and you showed me the beauties of it and that has remained with me since I left the camp. I will forever be thankful for your time and support and for taking time away from your families and for raising money just for us.

I would like to thank you at Sunway Safaris for letting my star shine in knowledge and understanding once again. These are moments I'll never forget. Thank you to all the people that made it possible, I really enjoyed myself and the pool and the game drives rocked. It's so sad that it was so short, but we came out bigger and stronger than when when arrived.

Thank you once again.
From: Bonisile Mnisi and the SOS Children's Village   

Apart from the speakers the guides and Tamlyn also had talks with the Kids. Tamlyn spoke about Sunway Safaris and The Adventure Company, and why the Kids had been given the opportunity to go on the weekend away. She also spoke about the importance of tourism worldwide and locally, and how Sunway has a specific focus on responsible travel on each of its tours.

Charel, Francois & Mich gave descriptions of vehicle preparation, how to run a tour, and dealing with clients. They explained the areas they had travelled to, and what they loved about their jobs.

The group went for game drives every morning and afternoon of the weekend. When first asked the Kids what animal in particular they wanted to see the immediate reply was "Everything!", so we did our best to achieve that. We were lucky to see a large variety of animals on the game drives from the big Elephant down to the tiny but strong Dung Beetle, and the guides gave information about each of the animals that we saw and about Pilanesberg National Park.

We feel that with each childs participation it has an invaluable influence on these young lives. Through the the weekend experience we can be sure that we have given these young disadvantaged South Africans an experience they may never have had; to see the natural beauty of their own country, and for some, we hope to have shown shown them the career opportunities in tourism and conservation.

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